I recently wrote a post on pineapple companion plants and I became curious about how pineapple plants pollinate (or if they even need to pollinate). While there’s some information out there, I didn’t exactly get a clear answer. So, I did some more research. Here’s what I found.
Most varieties of pineapples don’t need to be pollinated as they are self-fruiting. However, if pineapples are successfully pollinated (which is only possible from a different variety), their fruit quality can be affected as small black seeds develop. Ideally, reproduce pineapple plants via clones from cuttings.
So, while pineapple plants don’t need pollination to fruit, how exactly do they pollinate, and how do they reproduce? Let’s take a closer look.
How Pineapples Pollinate
Pineapple plants (Ananas comosus) are spiky shrubs originating from Brazil and Paraguay before being cultivated by the Mayans, Aztecs, Native Americans, and finally encountered by Columbus—who took pineapple plants back to Spain, where they became cultivated in western culture.
At pineapple farms, pineapples are not pollinated as their fruit quality will be affected. Not only will the plant shift its energy from producing fruit to producing seeds (resulting in smaller and less ideal fruits), but the fruit will become seedy. This is why hummingbirds are banned in Hawaii (source).
In the wild, pineapple plants are naturally pollinated by hummingbirds, bats, honeybees, and pineapple beetles. While the majority of these pollinators transfer pollen by seeking nectar from the flowers, bats feed on the pineapple fruit itself.
How Pineapples Fruit
Pineapples produce fruit by first growing up to 200 flowers, which then fuse together to form a single fruit (source). This process is called multiple or collective fruits. More scientific names are inflorescence (a cluster of flowers from a single branch) and infructescence (the cluster of flowers forming fruit).
Pineapple fruits are essentially a fusion of berries to form a single fruit.
Other examples of plants that fruit in this way are figs, mulberries, breadfruit, and jackfruit.
Contrast this to most other fruiting plants, such as raspberries, which develop fruit from a single flower. This is called aggregate fruiting.
Do You Need 2 Pineapples to Produce Fruit?
Unlike many fruiting plants, pineapple plants are self-fruiting, so you don’t need 2 pineapples to produce fruit. While pineapple plants can be pollinated from a different variety, it’s typically not desired as it affects the fruit quality.
Plants that can fruit without pollination are called parthenocarpic. If you’d like to avoid seedy pineapple fruits (from successful pollination), grow only one variety or induce flowers at alternating times if possible.
The most common pineapple varieties sold in the US are Del Monte Gold (aka MD2) and Tropical Gold. However, here are some less common varieties:
- Red Spanish
- Singapore Spanish
- Green Spanish
If you’re looking to grow pineapple as a houseplant, the more common variety is A. comosus ‘Variegatus’. Ideally, provide it with direct sunlight and temperatures of 64ºF to 75ºF. Avoid temperatures below 61ºF if possible. While these plants prefer a humid environment, they should only be water when the soil is dry.
How Do Pineapples Reproduce?
Pineapples reproduce mainly by vegetative propagation—taking one part of a mature plant and using it to grow a new plant.
Since pineapple plants typically aren’t pollinated or allowed to go to seed, you may be wondering how we can create more of them.
After fruiting, pineapple plants produce secondary shoots (aka “suckers”) which can either be left to be grown into more fruits on a single plant, or removed to grow a clone of the pineapple plant. For commercial purposes, these suckers are removed and cultivated.
You can use four parts of the pineapple plant for propagation:
- Crown: the top of the pineapple fruit
- Slips: leafy branches directly below the fruit
- Shoots: the appendages of the main stem
- Suckers: vertical growth from the root system or lower main stem
In the wild, pineapple plants reproduce from seeds that are created from pollination by hummingbirds, honeybees, pineapple beetles, and bats. In many tropical regions, the nectar from pineapple plants (and their relatives) are highly important energy sources for hummingbirds (source).
Do Pineapple Plants Produce Pollen?
Pineapple plants do produce pollen as they flower and fruit. While pineapples are self-incompatible and cannot be pollinated from the same variety of pineapple, self-fruiting pineapples still produce pollen. Typically 1 to 10 flowers open each day, starting around midnight before closing the following evening.
Pineapples are tropical, herbaceous perennials that take about 2-3 years to begin fruiting. While they’re self-fruitful, you can propagate them easily via cloning from the crown, slips, shoots, and suckers. Even though pineapples can be pollinated from a different variety, it’s not preferred as the fruit becomes less desirable and seedy.
Overall, I found pineapples a really interesting fruit and I’m looking forward to writing more articles on them soon!